On Friday, the 2nd of June, an exercise took place that involved organizations from the 6 islands in the Caribbean region of the Kingdom. The aim of the exercise was to practice the pre-evacuation of patients from Saba, Sint Eustatius and Sint Maarten in the event of a hurricane-related crisis. The main responsibility for the continuity of care on the BES islands lies with the Care and Youth Caribbean Netherlands (ZJCN) department at the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS). This exercise was carried out because there is a geographical dependency between Saba, Sint Eustatius and Sint Maarten, with fall-back possibilities in the Leeward Antilles.
Various medical institutions and government entities on the 6 islands took part in the exercise. This included Fundashon Mariadal (Bonaire), Sint Maarten Medical Center (Sint Maarten), Horacio Oduber Hospital (Aruba), Curaçao Medical Center (Curaçao), Queen Beatrix Medical Center (Sint Eustatius) and Saba Cares (Saba). The Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour for Sint Maarten, the Dutch ministries of BZK and VWS, and the Representative for the Netherlands on Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten were present because they also bear a responsibility in the medical pre-evacuation process.
In 2022, the state secretary for VWS and the health ministers of the Countries decided to increase inter-island medical cooperation as well as the accompanying proficiency. And medical pre-evacuations are an important part of this cooperation. If there is a crisis (or one is expected), medical pre-evacuation is essential in order to guarantee the continuity of care, which may be at risk if physical security cannot be ensured (like during a hurricane). This is also the case if a crisis leads to shortages in available medical resources and/or personnel.
Because of the past, we know exactly what type of impact a hurricane can have on the island population. This exercise is an important step towards improving readiness during the hurricane season, and towards reinforcing cooperation between all islands within the Kingdom, which often rely on each during such crises.